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Covering A Lot of Ground
Stories & links on adventure running, parenting, and building friendships
If you’re new here, thanks for visiting and please subscribe! Unlike most of my posts that feature a long narrative, this week’s is a collection of shorts with a lot of recommended links.
On Sunday, my husband Morgan and I were nearly halfway into our eight-hour drive across Colorado, from Telluride in the southwest corner to a ranch way up north near the Wyoming border, when a long length of I-70 leading to Denver suddenly turned red on the online map and our estimated arrival time jumped up by 40 minutes. We already were running late to meet our 22-year-old son, Kyle, at this ranch, so I searched for an alternate route.
The map suggested we head north, on the outskirts of Steamboat Springs, and go all the way up to Wyoming before dropping back down toward Fort Collins. We made a snap decision to go that way, which allegedly would be faster, and soon found ourselves on a windy, slow two-lane road.
A little ways farther, the route led onto an unpaved road for 25 miles that followed the Colorado River. The gravel surface formed a washboard of infinite bumps that made the Subaru rattle and fishtail if we drove faster than 35. We were low on gas, out of snacks and water, and had no cell coverage. With dread I wondered if we made a bad decision. But the map still told us we were going the fastest way and would arrive on time.
Finally we reached the small river town of Kremmling, where we got gas and began driving on asphalt again, and I could relax and appreciate the scenery. With the Chicks’ song “Wide Open Spaces” in my head, I marveled at the undeveloped open space dotted with cows and horses, the sun shining against storm clouds on the horizon, which made the light dramatic and the colors saturated.
We passed through more small towns with 19th-century buildings, such as Walden, “the moose viewing capital of Colorado” (so says the town sign), which appeared to be doing well enough by catering to anglers and hunters. These places reminded me of my town from when I was a kid, 40 years ago, with empty lots and shabby Victorians, not yet overrun with tourists and transformed by their wealth.
So much of this great state I haven’t yet seen. I rarely get out of the southwest corner, except to see my son who’s starting his final year at CU Boulder. I had the same thought a year ago when we took our special ranch trip between Alamosa and the Great Sand Dunes National Park:
With a desire in mind to explore and learn more about Colorado, I made a decision to take a trip on the weekend of October 7 rather than again run the Hanging Flume 50K that same weekend. It wasn’t an easy choice, because the Hanging Flume 50K and its destination are so special. If you’re looking for a challenging but well-supported 50K in a high-desert landscape, then I encourage you to sign up for it here and learn about its history from this earlier post:
So I signed up for a group trip in early October sponsored by the Conservation Lands Foundation to explore the North Fork Valley near Paonia in the West Elk Mountains, between the North Fork and South Fork of the Gunnison River. The main purpose is to see up close the work being done by the West Slope Conservation Center to protect more public land as areas of environmental concern. We’ll also spend time rafting on the Gunnison, and I haven’t done a river trip in years.
We took a trip like this with the Conservation Lands Foundation a few years ago to learn more about Bears Ears National Monument and what’s at stake over the fight to protect it as a National Monument. Going on a trip to better understand a landscape’s habitat, geology, and history—and in the process, becoming an advocate for it—is in my mind one of the best kinds of vacation getaways.
I encourage you to learn more about the work of the Durango-based Conservation Lands Foundation, the only nonprofit dedicated to protecting and expanding the National Conservation Lands (America’s newest public lands) managed by the Bureau of Land Management. They also support and fund some 80 community-based environmental groups throughout the West.
Let your baby grow up to be a cowboy, if that’s what he wants
We made it to Cherokee Park Ranch, a dude ranch where Kyle is working as a wrangler from dawn to dinner guiding guests on rides and helping to manage some 100 horses.
He found the ranch and applied for the job entirely on his own. I had been encouraging him to find a resume-building internship that supports his major in communications and sports media. But he told me he missed riding and working with horses, which was his main sport in high school, where he captained a gymkhana team. He also wanted a summer camp-like experience in the wilderness. He recognized that it may be the last time he gets to work a job like this before getting on a media-oriented career track and needing to support himself financially.
As it turns out, something in ranching and/or guest services may end up as his career track, because he loves it so much, and he wants to work at the ranch again next summer. He is incredibly happy with his cohort of wrangler friends, many of whom are from the South and quite different from his Boulder fraternity friends.
The remote ranch has no cell coverage or WiFi, so Kyle and his friends are offline except when they drive into Fort Collins. He told me he’s never slept better, because he’s doing so much physical work and he doesn’t scroll on his phone in bed. He also doesn’t miss social media or constant texting. In the cramped, rustic cabin he shares with five other guys, they only have a TV hooked up to a DVD player for entertainment. At the start of summer, I got a bunch of free old DVDs our library was giving away and mailed them to him, and he says they all watch the movies with more focus than usual because they’re off their phones.
In this new era of AI threatening jobs and perhaps humanity itself (explained so well in this podcast), perhaps a low-tech job working with one’s hands while relating to people and animals is the best career track of all.
As a mother (which I’ll always be at my core, even as an empty-nester), I learned again the lesson I learned repeatedly—that my son and daughter do best when I get out of their way and they figure things out on their own, following their interests.
When my kids were little, I took a workshop based on the Positive Discipline book, and one lesson that stuck (which is so much easier said than done) was, “don’t do for your kids what they can do on their own.” In other words, let them pick out their clothes and get dressed for school; let them do their homework without your checking; let them do their own science fair project, even if you feel embarrassed about what the other parents might think because to you it looks sloppy or incomplete.
It’s so easy to cross over from supporting to over-parenting by telling your kids what to do, how to do it, and to double-check anything they produce on their own. When I did that in the interest of helping or protecting them, I inadvertently conveyed the message that I don’t trust their judgment and robbed them of the opportunity to learn from mistakes.
Maternal love and pride flowed through my chest this morning when I unexpectedly found this post picturing Kyle, captioned, “Living the dream”:
Only in Boulder, only through running
After visiting the ranch and staying at this fabulous hotel in Fort Collins (I definitely want to go back and spend more time there), my husband and I drove to Boulder to do Kyle the favor of moving his stuff into a new studio apartment, since he’s tied up at work and couldn’t meet the movers.
Before I became immersed in unpacking boxes and making trips to the hardware store, I had an only-in-Boulder experience. Every time I run around Boulder, I find myself getting passed by world-class runners, and I try to feel more inspired than inferior. Yesterday was no exception.
I ran from the hotel past Pearl Street Mall to the Sanitas Valley Trailhead, where I started up the natural rock steps of Mount Sanitas.
On the mile-long climb with 1200 feet of elevation gain, I ran into Anthony Lee, an accomplished pro ultrarunner I recognized from past races. We fell into an easy conversation about his UTMB training and the 100-milers we both have done in recent years.
As soon as we got to the summit, a group of strong runners charged up as if they were racing one another, clearly on a workout to challenge their effort levels. I recognized the leader, pro trail runner Andy Wacker, who I met back in 2015 at a Trail Runner photo shoot. I had just read about him and the Trail Team Club he’s developing in Mario Fraioli’s newsletter (worth reading!). We chatted for a bit, and I ran down the flowy backside of the mountain with an extra boost of energy.
Those runners are totally out of my league, and yet, it’s safe to assume we felt a mutual connection because of our shared experience. Even though I was a visitor in this town and knew hardly anyone there, I felt a sense of belonging because of those encounters.
Later this week, I need to write and submit a column for UltraRunning magazine, and the editor asked me to write on the theme of community. A point I’ll make will be: There’s no substitute for running together in person. You may think you’re “building community” when you follow the chat box on a live-streaming ultra, or when you post something motivational (or self-promotional) on Instagram that elicits a lot of positive comments. But actually, you’re being a sports fan and a social media influencer—which is fine. It’s just not the same as running trails with others or volunteering at races. Authentic connections form through that shared in-person experiences, which brings me to a few final recommendations:
I loved this newsletter post by my new friend Kelton Wright, about the challenges of making friends in a mountain town. I can relate to a lot of what she writes. We moved to Telluride for half the year starting in 2016 and year-round in 2019, and I have struggled to form deep friendships—the kind of friend you could call if you truly needed help. My most reliable friends tend to be neighbors who knew my parents, so we go way back in time. Because of all the points Kelton makes, I’m deeply grateful for the way in which long runs tend to fast-track and deepen friendships. If I run for hours with someone, and we talk the whole way and share the physical challenge, then we’re almost guaranteed to be friends and at ease with one another. Last Thursday, I went on an extra-long training run (34 miles with 10.5K’ of vert) with Suzanna Bon, and midway another running friend, Christina, met us with water and snacks. Because I’ve run long distances with these women, I’m closer to them than to any “friends” (who are more casual acquaintances) whom I’ve met through local social gatherings.
I also highly recommend reading Maggie Guterl’s short but powerful Fastest Known Time report about her record-setting unsupported completion of the 169ish-mile Collegiate Loop in the Sawatch Range. She’s remarkably understated and matter-of-fact about the incredibly gutsy undertaking. It’s as if it’s not that big of a deal to run around the wilderness all alone with little sleep and little food for 77 hours. She concludes, “I do encourage someone else to go for this. It's doable way faster. Especially the ladies. Hiking alone at night is pretty empowering and less scary than you think!”
Finally, I heard from author and ultrarunner Katie Arnold that she has spots available for the four-day “flow” writing and running retreat she’s holding September 8 - 11 not far from where I live, in the Lizard Head Wilderness of the San Juan Mountains. I’ll be there as a guest on September 9 for a group run in the morning and writing in the afternoon. Her site describes the camp as:
Katie Arnold is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Running Home and the forthcoming book of nonfiction, Brief Flashings in the Phenomenal World, as well as elite ultrarunner and Leadville 100 champion. In this four-day running and writing flow camp we’ll explore simple, pleasurable practices that help bring more presence, ease, and momentum into our everyday lives. The grounding rhythms of life at High Camp—running, writing, sitting, moving, gathering—will be both energizing and restorative, clearing our minds to see into who we truly are and how we aspire to live, on and off the trail.
Find out the details and cost at this link and sign up soon if you’re interested!
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